How to set up a home security system without a monitoring contract

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There’s never been a better time to consider adding devices to your home to allow you to monitor what’s going on from anywhere in the world. (Source: Kaspars Grinvalds via 123RF) There’s never been a better time to consider adding devices to your home to allow you to monitor what’s going on from anywhere in the world. (Source: Kaspars Grinvalds via 123RF)

Q: Can you recommend a home security system that doesn’t require a monitoring contract?

A: The DIY home security market has exploded with internet-connected devices that can monitor just about anything in or around your home.

If you’re willing to be the "monitoring company" via your smartphone, there are numerous options that range from complete systems to various individual devices that can be used to create your own custom system.

Self-monitoring means that if you sleep through an alert on your smartphone in the middle of the night, you won’t know about it until you wake up the next morning.

It also means that you will have to decide when to call the police or 911 based on what you are seeing on your smartphone.

[READ MORE: How to put together a DIY home security system]

Wired vs. wireless
Your first step is to assess the areas that you want to monitor to determine if you have electrical power and wired or wireless internet access.

As internet access goes, opting for wired devices over wireless devices can eliminate a common point of failure when Wi-Fi issues arise.

Devices that plug directly into an electrical outlet also eliminate the possibility of a battery failure, but that can also limit where you are able to install devices.

[MORE: Data Doctors]

Complete systems
If you have a smaller home or apartment, you may be able to use one of the all-in-one solutions such as Canary or the upcoming Angee.

These single-device security systems are simple to set up and can monitor motion, sound, temperature and humidity while providing video streaming to show you what it’s seeing. The primary device can monitor your primary living space with various sensor options for extending the monitoring area if needed.

The popular SimpliSafe platform offers a much larger variety of monitoring sensors that are still simple to set up because they’re all wireless. 

While they don’t require you to pay for the company's optional $15 per month monitoring service, you won’t get the full functionality such as controlling everything from your smartphone unless you do. SimpliSafe's monitoring is month-to-month so you have the flexibility to turn it on while you’re on vacation and discontinue upon your return.

Lowe’s Iris platform offers a similar package, including the ability to manage your devices remotely via your smartphone without having to pay for one of its monitoring packages.

One of the more complete systems with a lot of options for tinkerers is from iSmartAlarm. It works with Amazon’s Alexa and the IFTTT (If This, Then That) platform.

[RELATED: Are smart devices safe to use?]

Individual device options
There are a plethora of camera-based monitoring systems that range from the Ring Doorbell, Spot and Floodlight Cams to Nest Cams, which can work with their optional alarm sensors.

For those needing completely wireless security cameras, both Arlo and Blink offer wire-free devices, which means you you can put them virtually anywhere you have a Wi-Fi signal. The batteries generally last one to two years and both companies offer weatherproof options for outdoor use.

If your Wi-Fi signal range is an issue, don’t forget about my previous suggestion to upgrade to a "mesh network."


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